Electricity users in the Hawaiian state are falling victim to a scam method used by fraudsters who are exploiting the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency.
As reported by Hawaiian news source, Khon 2, the scheme to target the cryptocurrency funds of Hawaiian residents is a “new twist on an old scam” which sees scammers phoning customers of power suppliers to pay their overdue bills using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
The individuals targeted, customers of companies such as Hawaii Electric Light, Maui Electric, and Hawaiian Electric, are led to believe that they have outstanding bills and run the risk of immediate disconnection of power if they do not instantly pay up in cryptocurrencies.
According to Shannon Tangonan, director of corporate communications for electricity provider HECO, many of the customers weren’t even facing unsettled bills but the fraudsters were able to persuade them to pay:
“They weren’t even overdue, but the scammers sounded so convincing that these business owners were willing to pay. They actually went to a Bitcoin machine as directed by these scammers and fed cash into the machines, which then transfers it into digital currency.”
Over and above phoning victims, the scammers would also send out email notifications with ‘disconnection notices’ which would contain the letterhead of the chosen power company that the fraudsters were posing as. There have been reports that the emails have included a QR code with the intention to have the victim scan at a Bitcoin ATM machine.
The advice, as always, is to approach any suspicious behavior with a great deal of caution. The senior vice president for customer service of the Hawaiian Electric Companies Jim Alberts put it this way:
“This is simply a new twist on an old scam, but our same advice applies: just hang up. Whether it’s Bitcoin, gift cards or money orders, our companies aren’t going to threaten you or have you running around town to meet unorthodox payment demands.”